Dough Doctor: What is ‘dough factor,’ and does mixing time really matter?

Dough Doctor, Tom Lehmann, dough topping

Q: I’ve heard of a thing called “dough factor.” Can you explain this to me?

A: Dough factor –– also known as “dough loading” –– is used to calculate the amount of dough needed to increase or decrease a pizza’s size while keeping everything in correct balance in regard to dough, sauce and cheese weights. In our case, we can also think of it as ounces of dough, cheese or sauce per square inch of surface area.

It can be used to manipulate the size of both thin- and thick-crust pizzas. To begin, make any size pizza you’re comfortable working with, and adjust the amount of dough used to give you what you feel is a perfect pizza crust for your specific application. Now do the same thing with the amount of sauce and cheese used on the pizza. This might take a few trials, but the effort will be well worth it as you begin developing the different sizes of pizza you want to offer.

Let’s assume you used a 12-inch round format to develop this perfect pizza. Using the formula to find the surface area of a circle (pi x R squared), we will use pi as 3.14 and R is equal to ½ of the diameter, so for our 12-inch diameter pizza the math will look like this: 3.14 X 36 = 113.04 (we’ll call it 113 square inches). If we used 10 ounces of dough to get our perfect crust, we will divide 10 ounces by 113 to get 0.0884955 ounces of dough per square inch. Let’s just call it .088 ounces per square inch.

For the sauce loading we will do the same thing, only using the sauce weight instead of the dough weight. Let’s say we used 7½ ounces of cheese on our perfect pizza. We now divide the sauce weight by 113 to get our “cheese factor” or loading per square inch. Here is what that math will look like: 7½ divided by 113 = .663716 (call it 0.066 ounces of cheese per square inch). For the sauce we just plug in the sauce weight, which in this case, let’s say was 3½ ounces, and divide it by 113. So we get 3½ divided by 113 = .0309734 (call it .031 ounces of sauce per square inch).

Based on this, we come up with the following factors:

  • Dough: 0.088
  • Sauce: 0.031
  • Cheese: 0.066

To use these factors, we must not decide what size pizzas we want to make and instead determine the surface area for each. Let’s say we want to make a 16-inch pizza. Remember the formula pi X R squared. So, 3.14 X 64 = 200.96 (call it 201-square inches), and all we need to do now is to simply multiply each of our three factors by 201 to get the weights for the dough, sauce and cheese to make our 16-inch pizza. Dough: 201 x 0.088 = 17.688 (call it 17.75 ounces of dough needed). Sauce: 201 x 0.031 = 6.231 (call it 6.25 ounces of sauce needed). Cheese: 201 x 0.066 = 13.266 (call it 13.25 ounces) If you want to make a special square or rectangular shaped pizza you would do the same thing, but to find the surface area you would simply multiply the length times the width of the pan. For example, a 16-inch x 16-inch square pan would have 16 x 16 = 256 square inches as opposed to 201 square inches for the same size round pan. By using this method to calculate the dough, sauce and cheese weights needed for each of your pizza sizes, you will find that each of your pizza sizes will exhibit a similar bake time (to some extent dependent upon the weight and number of “other” toppings) regardless of the size/diameter.

Q: How does the dough mixing time affect the finished crust?

A: Due to the number of different types of flour used to make pizza dough, there is no hard and fast answer to your question. But, as a general rule, the longer you mix a pizza dough, the finished crumb structure or porosity will become more bread-like, which may ultimately result in a tougher, more chewy crust with an inherent loss of crispiness.

The rule when mixing pizza dough is to just mix it enough to develop a smooth, satiny appearance to the dough. Once it has achieved this stage of gluten development, it can be taken to the bench for scaling and rounding/balling without undue stickiness. At this level of gluten development –– which is really quite minimal –– the dough will handle well at the bench and produce a finished crust with a desirably open, porous crumb structure imparting maximum potential for tender eating and firm, crispy textural characteristics.

The only time when it is desirable, if not mandatory, to mix pizza dough to full or near complete gluten development is when the dough will be used to make commercial frozen pizza dough (and long frozen shelf life characteristics of 12 to 20 weeks are targeted). But for any retail frozen pizza dough, which will be frozen in a static freezer at temperatures of 0 to -10 F and where a maximum of three weeks frozen shelf life is the extreme target, regular dough mixing times and procedures for achieving limited gluten development should be used.

Tom Lehmann is a director at the American Institute of Baking in Manhattan, Kansas.

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